The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Ottawa Forest starts charging for Black River Harbor visits


May 17, 2019


Ironwood Township — Visitors to Black River Harbor will need to pay if they bring a vehicle to the harbor’s day-use area after Ottawa National Forest officials implemented a user fee for harbor visitors this week.

As of Wednesday, visitors to the harbor will have to pay a daily fee of $5 per vehicle or purchase an annual pass sticker for $30.

“The good thing about this money is that 85 percent of it is returned directly to the forest,” said Lisa Klaus, a spokeswoman for the Ottawa National Forest. “For us, that means we can put some money back into our facilities. It will allow us, also, to have an increased presence so we can hire staff that can be out there to provide some support as well. It allows us to even plan a little bit better, knowing we will have some income coming in.”

The fees are in place between May 15 and Sept. 30, according to Klaus, with Thursdays designated as fee-free days.

“For most of our locals that are running up there in the summer just trying to get out of the heat and jump in the lake, we’ve got Thursdays set aside as a fee-free day,” Klaus said.

The daily fee can be paid with the fee envelopes located at the harbor that are similar to those at other Forest Service properties, according to Klaus, and the annual passes are available for purchase at any of the local Forest Service offices.

“The good thing about that pass is it’s not just Black River Harbor. It’s also the Clark Lake area (in Sylvania) and Lake Ottawa (near Iron River),” Klaus said. “It covers three different areas, each of which also have a day-use cost.”

The fee basically covers things at the harbor at the end of Black River Road — including the boat launch, the parking lot and the grassy area before the suspension bridge.

“It is not the campground and it is not the waterfall trailhead parkings that are up the road,” Klaus said. “The campground has a separate charge, and there is no fee for the trailhead parking there (at the waterfalls).”

Although it just went into effect Wednesday, Klaus said a fee for Black River Harbor was actually approved in 2017. The Forest Service held off charging users due to the work that was being done at the harbor over the last year or two.

“We knew there was so much going on up at the harbor last year — trying to work on water systems, trying to improve some of the facilities. We had some challenges up there just keeping the area maintained. It didn’t feel timely to charge for services that weren’t really good for the customer,” Klaus said. “So now we’ve taken care of a lot of that, we feel like we’re providing a good service up there and so we’ll begin charging that fee this year.”

Klaus acknowledged people may not particularly enjoy the idea of paying to access the harbor, but said much of the input gathered during the decision-making process was ultimately positive — with some out-of-state commenters expressing shock there wasn’t already a fee.

“Nobody wants to pay a fee, but people totally understand the purpose and the value of that,” Klaus said. “I think people recognize there’s a cost in maintaining that site.”

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